Our Charter

Being an educated person in the 21st century requires, at a minimum, being informed, that is, it requires having a broad base of knowledge across several traditional subject areas, including math, biology, chemistry, history, geography, literature, and art. In an increasingly “flat” world, it also involves being knowledgeable about other cultures and societies, the ways in which the decisions and ways of living of the members of one culture or society can affect those of another, and how the actions of all of humanity affect the well-being of the planet that we inhabit.

But the mere possession of a broad base of knowledge is not sufficient. Education at its best is humanizing. To have this effect, the person being educated must grapple with great questions, ideas, and texts. History’s best minds have explored a range of fascinating questions, including: How does nature work? What is the structure of the physical world? Where did we come from? How should we live? How should governments operate? How should society be structured? What is the nature of love? Of justice? One unique feature of the human species is its capacity for actively reflecting on these questions and on the ways these questions have been answered by generations of scientists, poets, historians, philosophers, and other thinkers across different times, traditions, and cultures. Such activity has a dignifying and ennobling effect. While not unique to a 21st century education, it is an indispensable component.

Another timeless but indispensable feature of a 21st century education is a genuine love of learning. An educated person believes that knowledge and learning are good and worth pursuing. She also desires to cultivate, inform, and expand her mind. She regularly experiences what educational philosopher Israel Scheffler calls “rational passions” or “cognitive emotions,” such as a “love of truth,” a felt “concern for accuracy” and the “joy of verification and surprise” (1991: Ch. 1). This love of learning is the fire that ignites and sustains all of her other intellectual activities.

An educated person in the 21st century is also a proactive, self-motivated learner. This person not only desires knowledge, but also actively seeks it. She takes responsibility for 10 her education. She reads widely and regularly. When she encounters an obstacle to understanding, she does not ignore it or give up. Rather, she takes intelligent measures to overcome the obstacle and to continue deepening her knowledge. She is intellectually tenacious.

Finally, an educated person in the 21st century knows how to think. This is an especially important ability in today’s world:

First, with the proliferation of information technology, we are bombarded with information around the clock, some of which is good and accurate, some of which is not. Therefore, to be a truly educated person today, one must be intellectually discriminating. One must be able to identify a reliable source from an unreliable source, to ask relevant and incisive questions, and to demand and evaluate reasons and evidence.

Second, today’s economy is technologically driven and rapidly changing. As others have noted (Kalantzis and Cope 2005: 33; Smith 2012), many of the vocationally oriented skills and knowledge learned by junior high and high school students today will be obsolete by the time these students enter the workforce. Accordingly, it is crucial that today’s schools provide students with a range of “soft skills,” which include “the ability to use knowledge, facts, and data to effectively solve workplace problems” (US Dept. of Labor, www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/softskills.htm). These are among the skills and abilities of an excellent and critical thinker.

Third, today as much as ever, the health and security of democracy across the globe requires, as Martha Nussbaum has said, that all citizens possess the ability to “think for themselves, criticize tradition, and understand the significance of another person’s suffering and achievements” (2010: 2; 93). It falls to the enterprise of education to ensure that such a capacity is widely fostered in schools nationally and abroad.